Home Insulation Improvements and Heating

@Vertiginous and I were talking a week ago, and he mentioned installing outlet insulators in his apartment. Ignoring the fact that he’s allowed to actually make improvements to his apartments, and I think I would have been evicted had any of my landlords discovered that I so much as took the outlet covers off, it’s worth suggesting that there are a range of small, cheap improvements you can make to your house to improve insulation in the winter.

The outlet and light switch insulators go under the covers and help keep drafts out. How much does this matter? It depends on the house, but they’re a large gap in the otherwise hopefully solid insulation, so they can make a difference - I’ve seen 2-5% numbers, depending on the house, which isn’t too bad for a couple bucks.

I picked up my kit from here: Electrical Outlet & Light Switch plate Foam Gasket Insulator Kit | Weatherization & Winterize

Mostly because I’m trying to get away entirely from Amazon, and if I need something, I’m trying to order from independent stores rather than eBay (which, depressingly often, ends up being an Amazon drop shipment).

I also picked up a few of these: Brass Door Tite Strike Plate Ratchet Style Door Strike Hardware Jamb| Automatic Door Tight

They help keep doors closed more tightly, and seem to do a good job of it.

Will it make a huge difference? Probably not. But it’s likely to make some moderate difference, and it’s the sort of “low cost, low effort” solution that does make some very concrete reductions in energy use in a typical home.

Next step is probably to start handing the kits out at church to people who are interested.

I’ve lived in houses (current one included) where during a strong wind you could feel the colder air around an outlet. The foam gaskets work great. Kinda like a door sweep or draft blocker, some of them don’t seem to do much when the air isn’t moving, but when it is boy do you notice.

I hadn’t seen the ratchet door strikes before. I’ll have to try those.

I need to get some more great-stuff spray foam. Or as my Aunt likes to call it “carpenter in a can”. I took the bathroom roof vent-cover off the other day to fix a problem, and could see around the side of the tube going up through the roof and realizing there’s a huge gap in there where it doesn’t look like they bothered to cut and fit the roof insulation around the pipe. So there’s a much bigger uninsulated space in the roof besides just the vent pipe.

On the topic of very expensive winterizing tools, anybody got a high-def FLIR camera I can borrow? :yum:

I regret not buying one of the hackable/upgradeable FLIR cameras a while back… so, no, I don’t have one.


Last winter I got some foam stick door edge things, to get the edges of the doors sealed decently, and then door bottom seal/insulator. Definitely made a huge difference, especially the back door to the patio which is by my desk. Made a real difference along the floor.

For finding things like outlet leaks and door leaks, you can get a cheap non-contact IR thermometer for under $20. A decent brand name one can be had for $50 or so; I have owned a Raytek MiniTemp for years and it’s great. Just treat it like a one pixel camera, and you can find leaks (cold air coming into the house) easily. Unfortunately the opposite (hot air leaving your house) isn’t as easy to find unless you’re willing to crawl up into the attic; this is where the cameras come in handy.

I have a USB Flir One. Not super high def but it works well enough.

Raspberry Pi thermal camera - Raspberry Pi could be an interesting solution though.